The hardest part about being an actor is that we will not get roles because we simply play the wrong instrument (symbolically of course). See the problem with acting is that you have to work with what you are dealt. An adorable tiny blonde woman, lets compare to a flute, will (most likely) not get the opportunity to play a brassy trumpet solo. While each actor has a range of characters they can play, and that range can be quite significant, the fact is that ranges have outer limits. We are trained to stretch ourselves and to be able to play any role asked of us, but “type” is a real thing. We will walk into big auditions and be “typed out” before we even get a chance to open our mouths.
And can I just say that the minute you start to get into musical theatre roles, the number of types grow exponentially? Not only does the actor have to fit a certain look and a certain style of acting, but now they have to be a certain voice part, and that’s not even considering the fact that certain shows are more classically oriented, and others are more of a pop-rock style.
Entering college was the first place that I really started to recognize this. Friends and classmates, some of whom are the most talented people I know, are continually passed over in casting because they don’t fit the show or they don’t fit the look of the part. We have had the privilege of learning from each other and growing together, but there is no fairness to the fact that one person will get so many more opportunities than another just because they are a certain type. The theatre is a cruel, unforgiving business.
Broadway.com likes to post “dream casts” of musicals or of movies that could become musicals. But one thing I have noticed is that somehow Jennifer Damiano and Aaron Tveit always make the cut. Each are very talented in their own right, but the reason they are always picked is because they represent the cookie cutter American standard. In a vast majority of shows, there will be a role for an Aaron Tveit or a Jen Damiano, because that type is in such high demand.
The theatre community is certainly making strides to compensate for this. There is a certain amount of diversity that is mandated, blind casting is becoming much more commonplace, and more shows are being written to feature these neglected “types”.
But still, type sucks.
That being said, type allows you to be able to find your niche. Knowing where your home base is makes it so much easier to be able to branch out and expand that range. Just because you may play a certain type most of the time, doesn’t mean that you are stuck there. The important thing is to not resign yourself to one thing. Find a way to push yourself into something new. Change the sound of your instrument.